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Archive for March, 2008

We’re finally home from our trip to Monterrey, arrived back at the church Friday night about 8pm. Our day of driving was very long, a couple of hours longer than our trip down due to several accidents that brought traffic to a crawl. We had a couple in our group that had been up during the night Thursday with various sicknesses but they did well on the ride home. I was hoping to capture some video of Beth Guckenberger telling this story (I had heard her tell it when I was down there last summer) and then she told me it was already up on Godtube. It’s a real story of what the children’s homes do when they run out of food. The story is very similar to what we experienced when we were there and were able to provide for the children’s meal.This is a very cool story of how God orchestrates how He uses all of us to care for His children.Take a look.BEA 

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Tomorrow We Leave for the U.S.

All our vans are packed and most of us are already asleep — tomorrow we leave B2B at 6am for a long drive home from our week here. It has been a tremendous week and we have been touched by how God is moving in mighty ways in Monterrey to care for the needs of the fatherless here.

Today, we accomplished several major things today. The first was to shop for the immediate needs for a new home about a hour away from here that just called Todd and Beth saying their well is out and they have no food. At the same time, we had told Todd and Beth that we had additional funds to meet any need that came up while we were here or after we left. So, a couple of us went to Sam’s Club and purchased huge quantities of rice, milk, eggs, oil, dish detergent, clothes detergent and other essentials. I’ll talk more about that after I return home but there would have been about 40 kids and house parents going to bed hungry tonight had God not orchestrated our trip here and our desire to be His hands and feet. It’s not us, it’s Him. We just got the joy of being part of it.

The second thing we did was to pour the concrete slab that we had prepped earlier in the week at the Douglass House. It took a lot of work but we were able to complete it and then take about a dozen kids from that home to a park in Monterrey to hike up a small mountain. It is an oasis in the midst of a city of nine million.

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The third thing was to hand out flip flop sandals that were provided to us by many of you (including many from my son’s class to many of the kids at the Douglass House. Joshua and Steven were front and center handing them out. What was amazing was that Rodolfo (a young man that lived at the Douglass House for many years and is now part of the Hope Teen Program at B2B and is now on staff with B2B and also speaks five languages) would ask each boy what size he wore and then hand him a pair. There was no asking for a different color, no complaining — they were truly grateful and content with what they were given. What a wonderful life lesson for me and certainly for our kids on this trip.

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Thank you to everyone who supported us on this trip. We appreciate your prayers and support and look forward to returning home. Keep watching as I take some time to reflect on some of what I experienced here. I had several very emotional days and experienced enormous heart breaking just looking at the conditions many of these people live in — and they are joyful the entire time.

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“Clementia, or Meme as we call her, has lived most of her life in a house made of cardboard on a piece of a riverbank. We can’t imagine that she wakes up most mornings and doesn’t still feel tired from the day before. She has endured enough personal pain and physical abuse that some would say she has earned the right to think only of herself, but that is the last thing that Meme does.

She is always sharing her resources with people in the Rio that need milk for their babies, food for their kids or help of any kind. She has not let her childhood of being an abandoned little girl or of being someone who was mistreated by her ‘new mother’ stop her from serving the Lord. Her life has truly been a daily offering to God. She only received a 6th grade education but she has more wisdom in the ways of God than many of us. She can be seen walking around the Rio with a Bible in one hand and little pesos in the other, sharing God’s love and concern for those around her.” (This content courtesy of Back 2 Back Ministries, written by Kathy Couch, Beth Guckenberger and Greg Huffer.)

Tonight, during our de-briefing, each of us what was most memorable the day. Of the 12 adults, at least half of us talked of Meme and what she was doing in the Rio as most memorable. To me, Meme is the very face of Christ, she is truly His hands and feet and to think that all she’s been through in her life and she is still being used to impact the people living in the Rio in amazing. We had the benefit of having Meme ride in our van to and from the Rio and she exudes joy and contentment. This area has been dramatically changed as result of Meme’s work there. B2B comes alongside Meme and supports what she does there by building a small church, using groups like our’s to bring in simple supplies like toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, diapers, vitamins and other things.

Here are some photos of Meme with her grandchildren, of her home and her neighborhood. This is an area where God’s love is being seen, his plan of redemption for each of us is being heard but there are still issues there. As we walked around to invite people to come to have lunch with us and get supplies, we were asked in to pray for one young man who had been injured two weeks before. His right hand was completely bandaged up but a good portion of his right arm was a very serious, deep open wound. His mother and brother were with him and asked us to pray for him. This young man apparently struggles with drug addiction and has been involved in gang activity. Please be praying for Meme, for her strength and safety, and for the people of the Rio.

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Today, we spent a more relaxed day, though still very long, at the El Retiro Juvenil children’s home about 45 minutes south of Monterrey. It is a home of about 25 children, mostly boys, that is in a much more rural environment. The home sits on about 12 acres of land with lots of fruit trees and a ropes course that Juan (the B2Ber that is the lead person for that home) says they have big dreams for. Now, they mostly use it for groups like our’s to learn teamwork, and offer a short break from the work.

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We spent an hour or so in the morning doing some general stuff around the property. Joshua and I set up two very old computers (white box brands, 400Mhz, 64 MB of memory and Windows ME on them) in what appeared to be a study lounge or classroom of some kind. This is the kind of computer I wouldn’t even think of trying to use and yet this is the best they have. Others built additional elements to be used in the ropes course, others cleaned up fruit that had dropped from the trees, others used wheel-barrows to move piles of medium-sized rocks and still others cleaned up around some of the buildings. Because they had so many fruit trees, they encouraged us to pick up fruit to eat and take back to the B2B facilities with us and many of our kids obeyed them very well and filled their shirts with oranges and tangerines :).

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After a short lunch and some play time with the kids that weren’t in school, we spent a couple of hours in two teams going through the ropes course. Our team, name by Juan the “Best Team,” went out first with Antonio as our guide. Then Juan took the other team, the “Perfect Team,” out to some different obstacles. Juan’s dream is that eventually this ropes course will be used by corporations, churches and other organizations as a team-building facility. Juan just passed his exam to be qualified to do adventure guiding, including mountaineering, rappelling, rafting and other things like that. The monthly needs for this children’s home is about $5,000 and they think they could easily make that much renting out the facility and train others to be guides and facilitators. Juan clearly thinks big for these children.

The first exercise we did was very interesting because we all just jumped onto the rope (cable actually) and began trying to do what we needed to do. Over time, Antonio told us we needed to stop thinking as individuals and think as a team, we needed to let those at the front of the ropes, let those in the back what we needed. We needed to consider our surroundings. We need to take into account each person’s strengths and use those to the benefit of the group. We then did other obstacles that were all close to the ground but included some aspect of climbing across, around or over ropes and/or cables. After each, we spent some time discussing the parallels of what we had done both from a team perspective and working together, but also from a spiritual perspective. The entire exercise was a great learning opportunity for all of us, especially our kids.

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The final stop on the ropes course was the high-wire section where each of us got fitted with a harness and connected to a belay with a carribeaner. The kids were fearless. Darby is a young girl that shimmied up the tree and plowed right through all three portions of the course. Joshua followed several others of our kids and did great, even stopping to pose for a few pictures by his dad :).

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The older of us went after all the kids had gone and it was much more intense up there than when you were standing on the ground yelling to the person as to what you thought they should do next. When we were all completed with the ropes course, Juan spent some time talking about why they take groups through the course. Certainly part of it is a break from the hard, physical labor but even more so he talked about living in “the red zone” that place where God is using you beyond what you think is possible for your life. He praised all the parents for accomplishing the high-wire portion of the course and said he watched the faces of our children as they saw us living dangerously and beyond what even they thought we could do. He encouraged us to continue living in the red zone when we return to our daily lives back in Austin. I hadn’t even thought of doing this for our kids and what it would do to inspire and motivate them.

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We closed out the day with dinner at the children’s home wonderfully made by the director’s wife and several of the older girls that live there. Following that we played and loved on the kids some more before building a bonfire and eating marshmallows and s’mores. One of the consistent rules on this trip was for our kids not to solely play with each other but to always try to find a little boy or girl from the home we’re at to  play with as well. Stephen and Joshua are very close friends back in Austin and spend a lot of time with each other so Cliff and Hope and I have really kept an eye on letting them have fun together but to not lose out on the opportunity to love on the other kids here.

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I kept Joshua close to me tonight and asked him to look for opportunities to interact with the kids and he did a great job. Three times he tried to give one of the kids his marshmallow stick or a marshmallow but wasn’t able — but he kept trying. Finally, by the end of the night he had lots of kids to say “adios, mi amigo” to. I’m very proud of just how great all the kids have done on this trip, taking their eyes off themselves and looking for opportunities to serve the kids at the homes. We had a very late night and didn’t arrive back to the B2B facilities until after 10pm, partially due to my little run-in with local policia :).

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Tomorrow we’re going to spend the day at the Rio, an even poorer portion of town along the river. We’ll bring more of our supplies with us including diapers, lice shampoo, toothbrushes and other things to give to the residents there. Good night and thank you for your prayers and support.  BEA

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Juan told me to do all the talking, let them know I only spoke English and that he’d jump in after a few minutes. Juan was the B2B project manager for the children’s home we went to today.

But Juan never jumped in!

So I was going a little over the speed limit. They asked for my driver’s license, where we were going, where we had been and after about five somewhat tense minutes, they let us go. I was watching all the police cars in my rear view mirror and said to those in my van “Oh my, they’re frisking Cliff Fritschle!” 🙂

This resulted in near immediate gasps in our van and then laughter when I said, “just kidding.” When it was all over, Cliff asked to take a photo of the machine gun guy — he said no.

More on this story in person, if you’re interested. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I was glad we had Juan sitting in the front seat with me. It was a very long day, we’re all exhausted, just returned to the B2B campus, the kids are asleep and I’m not far behind. We had a great day as a team. BEA

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Monterrey, March 10 Part 1

Our group had a great day today and worked even harder than yesterday. Today, since I don’t have a watch and the room we’re sleeping in has no windows, I awoke at 4am certain that it was at least 6:30. Argh. The morning routine was pretty much every other morning. Breakfast, personal quiet time, team devotional and then we depart at 10am for wherever we’re going that day. Joshua took part in reading one of the parts of our morning team devotional with Norma.

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Today, we  worked in a community of about 300 homes called Careytera, just east of Monterrey over the eastern range of the Sierra Madre mountains. The terrain is very flat and there are very few trees so it could have been incredibly hot. Fortunately, we had a nice breeze most of the day and it never really got too hot. As I said in one of my previous posts, this is not a children’s home but is the type of community from which children would come when placed in the children’s homes. There is a pastor named Angel (photo below with his wife) that is working very closely with the residents of this small community and they are seeing enormous growth as a body of believers.

As one of the B2B’ers said, the pastor, Angel, believes this is very fertile soil from which God will do amazing things for his people there.

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Immediately upon driving into the community, I was struck by the utter sparseness of everything. Each home sits on a tiny little parcel of land on which the homeowner builds a one or two room home of cinder block and concrete, the traditional building method for this part of the world. And yet, everyone we saw was so friendly and waved and said hello to us. They are a people that have learned what Philippians 4: 11-12 means about living with contentment. They don’t have perfect lives by any means but they showed us today a real joy in our interactions with them. Each of them is so proud of their homes. Some in our group commented tonight that though the homes are simple, the families have a pride of ownership and keep them very clean and orderly.

As far as our work for today goes, some of us made sandwiches, others parsed out the vitamins, others prepared to pour concrete and others got crafts and other things out for the kids to play with. I was so proud of Joshua, Steven, Noah, Dannah, Ethan and all the other kids that worked today. They worked VERY hard and never once complained. Noah commented that it made him very thankful for all that he had.

I joined our B2Ber and Cliff, Steve and David in pouring a concrete header around the perimeter of a cinder block wall where in the next couple of weeks a floor for the second floor of the house will be poured. We had several of the kids helping out as well throughout the day.

Here are a few photos of some of the beautiful, joyful faces we saw today at Catereyta. I hope you enjoy them.

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After a very full day of working, we drove back into Monterrey and had dinner at El Pollo Loco, a local chicken establishment. Very good. Good night all, tomorrow is another full day, this time working with a different children’s home with about 22 children just outside of Monterrey. Thank you for your prayers and for partnering with us on this trip. It is because of your commitment that we are able to be the hands and feet of Christ to the children here.  BEA

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Monterrey, March 10 (Part 2)

Ok, so maybe you wondered what happened to part 1? Well, I’m going in reverse order today since tonight’s debriefing is so fresh in my mind. At the end of each day, we take about 30 minutes with one of the staff members to reflect on the day we experienced. What did we see, what were you surprised by, were you blessed by something or someone, did God reveal Himself to you in a particular way that day?

Tonight’s de-brief was particularly interesting so I jotted down a few highlights from what some from our group shared. I’ll simply list them below for your enjoyment. No pictures, just some words.

It seems as though this group hit it’s stride today. It was our second full day of working together, friendships are being formed, I’m beginning to see some people in ways that I hadn’t previously. The group dynamics are fascinating and it’s very interesting to see how the kids are interacting and how they choose to share their thoughts in front of everyone.

Here are some notes from tonight’s session:

  • Nancy: during the time when many from our team walked through the neighborhood to invite folks out to play games, to receive the children’s vitamins and have a meal, Nancy was invited in to the home of an older man. Nancy is about our only completely fluent Spanish speaker and warms everyone’s heart that she comes into contact with. It turned out this man was illiterate and didn’t know what something was in his pantry so she was able to tell him what it was.
  • Hope: “I will never forget how hard my kids worked today.”
  • Cliff: Cliff took a ride with the pastor we were working with today to pick up some supplies. He jumped in the truck and blurted out something about being so excited to be here working with him and what a blessing the trip has been. After a brief moment of silence, the pastor said “Me no speak English,” to which Cliff said “Me no speak Spanish!” They both enjoyed a hearty laugh and realized it didn’t really matter that they didn’t understand each other in words.
  • Norma: Norma shared what a blessing it was to have Nancy on the trip with us and what a warm and gentle spirit Nancy has to which many others in the group agreed and added to the praise.
  • Ellen: Ellen spent part of the day coloring pictures with some of the kids. At the end of the day, several of them gave them to her as gifts.
  • Gabbie: Gabbie and her mom brought with them some blankets they had been given in the hopes they would be able to find someone to use them. The neighborhood we worked in today had several newborn babies in it and Gabbie felt blessed to be able to give them warm blankets for when it gets cold.

This was a great day. Be sure to read my next post up from this on what all we did today.  BEA

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